Bros is the first romantic comedy from a major studio about two gay men. It’s a smart LGBTQ+ rom-com for our time. And about time, for that matter. Here, Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street, American Crime Story), who penned the script with director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends from College), create an ambitious story that speaks directly to LGBTQ+ audiences while also managing to be downright universal.
Bros may be boy-meets-boy in its premise, but its heart often lies in things that lie beneath the surface and, perhaps, beyond sexuality and gender: connection, chemistry, self-esteem, and self-acceptance. That it captures all that with some depth and levity is refreshing. And its history-making achievement — it also happens to be the first studio film in history with an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast—certainly makes it stand out in the latter half of 2022, when so many other things make history, often igniting polarity.
Bros is a rare bird: a feel-good rom-com that sweeps you away with its passionate storytelling.
Solid Script and All-star Cast Elevate Bros
Produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Girls, Crashing), Bros intentionally evokes tropes from past rom-coms. Basically, the days when Nora Ephron, Meg Ryan, and Julia Roberts, ruled the screen. It also skewers the flowery ideals of romance typically found on the Hallmark Channel — in the film, the cable giant is wickedly dubbed Hallheart — and the chilly detachedness of “Sup?”-based dating-app hookups.
Eichner headlines the film alongside Luke Macfarlane (Brothers and Sisters, Killjoys). His character, Bobby, is an unapologetic, self-assured, gay podcaster and author living in New York City. He’s ambitious and self-made, but questions if real connection and intimacy is even possible in the Grindr app era. Of gay men, he tells his friends: “We’re horny and we’re selfish and we’re stupid. I don’t trust these people.”
Bobby’s work on the board of The LGBTQIA+ Museum gives Eichner and the film an outlet to comment on everything from heteronormativity and debunking the “love is love” ideal to waxing befuddlement about how LGBTQ+ individuals have been left out of history books or how children aren’t receiving proper LGBTQ+ education.
Sure, Bobby is a piece of work. But he’s still likable, and Eichner captures that to winning ends here, even if scenes come across as borderline preachy. But that’s Bobby. Or Eichner? Maybe a fiery blend of both? Surely, fans of Billy in the Street would expect nothing less. Either way, we’re not meant to ponder it too much.
This is fun. This is Bros.
Macfarlane, a longtime Hallmark Channel staple and an actor finally getting the recognition he deserves, is Aaron, a decidedly more reserved estate lawyer. He’s masculine, buff, and can confidently parade around shirtless in a packed gay club. Hello, pecs! Bobby and Aaron’s meet-cute in said club sets the film sailing into its tale about two potentially mismatched fellas—one more masculine than the other—and purposely shines a bright light, often satirically, on elements of gay male culture—and even, straight male culture—that elevate, emulate, and eroticize stereotypical masculinity.
It seems to ask: What is manhood, anyway? And how do two people lean into vulnerability and intimacy?
That may sound like a heavy lift, but in the hands of Eichner and Stoller, it’s easy to go along for the ride. The script is breezy and funny, with Eichner generating most of the laughs as he and Aaron decide to give it a shot.
How Bros Balances Depth and Humor
The genesis of Bros evolved from a sketch Eichner did on Billy on the Street, called “The Bro Lightning Round” with Jason Sudeikis. It was one of the only times on the show that Eichner took on another persona — a purposely bro-y one, reverse baseball cap and all.
As Bobby and Aaron get to know each here, they’re both confronted with their own pre-conceived notions of what relationships should look and feel like. Are we “casual?” Are we dating? What about that crazy foursome we just had? A “let’s meet in the park” scene humorously finds Aaron sitting on the lawn, rather than next to Bobby on the huge blanket he laid out, picnic basket, and all. Dinner conversations with friends draw each of them out of their protective shell. Hilarity ensues when, during an NYC visit from Aaron’s parents, Bobby persistently barks the importance of LGBTQ+ representation and education.
Bros contains similar beats from rom-coms we’ve all come to know and love—will they get together or…?—but one of the things that stands out here is how well Stoller and Eichner allow several scenes to play out longer than audiences might be used to. There’s some brilliant mastery in the script when, during a beach scene, Bobby truly opens up to Aaron. Aaron melts, too, at one point, setting up for a potential shocker of a confession that turns out to be pure gold.
In fact, there are several times when scenes appear to be ending, but just at the last second, Eichner and Stoller surprise us. The result is refreshingly heartfelt. And Macfarlane is pitch-perfect every step of the way.
Best of all, Eichner and Macfarlane have groovy on-screen chemistry. We haven’t rooted for a couple this much since Billy and Meg, or Richard and Julia, lit up the screen. It all works, in part, because Eichner and Macfarlane are believable.
Cameos abound — Kristin Chenoweth and Debra Messing (Will & Grace) in a hilarious turn. Amy Schumer and Kenan Thompson are featured for laughs. Other stars, like Harvey Fierstein, Amanda Bearse (as Aaron’s mom), and SNL’s Bowen Yang pepper their scenes quite nicely. Guillermo Diaz (Scandal)and Jai Rodriguez (both gay in real life), play straight men in Bros — a fitting Eichner-ism, perhaps. The man once pointed out that for decades, Hollywood allowed straight actors to play multi-dimensional, high-profile LGBTQ+ roles. Let’s flip it?
As the film makes a mad dash toward its grand opus, Bobby and Aaron uncover a bevy of personal revelations. All believable. But as we head toward Bobby’s — and the film’s — biggest set-up, the opening of The LGBTQIA+ Museum, things wobble a bit. Fortunately, the script auto-corrects and gives us a juicy climax worth waiting for.
One also should note that Bobby’s scenes alongside his LGBTQIA+ Museum peers are a hoot and the ensemble there — Dot-Marie Jones, Ts Madison, Jim Rash, Eve Lindley — are wonderfully on the mark. And comic Guy Branum as Bobby’s witty BFF is a great comic foil while offering a bit of groundedness.
Funny, clever, and playful, Bros is the brom-com we’ve been waiting for. Bros hits theaters Sept. 30.